STILLWATER, Okla. -- Oklahoma State is so engrained in Josh Holliday's baseball background that he credits the fact that he was a left-handed hitter to his days tracking Robin Ventura's record-setting hitting streak.
To be hired as the Cowboys' head coach Friday was the realization of a dream that sprouted up when another of his dreams -- getting to play for Oklahoma State -- was coming to a close.
"You can't grow up in that dugout and on those buses and on those fields and follow this and not have a place in your heart for what it is," Holliday said.
Holliday, 35, becomes the first former Cowboys player to lead the program. He played in two College World Series for Oklahoma State in 1996 and 1999, when his father, Tom, was the pitching coach. His dad later served as the head coach but was fired in 2003 before Frank Anderson was hired, serving the nine years in between.
Holliday most recently was an assistant coach at Vanderbilt for the past three seasons, and before that was an assistant at Arizona State, Georgia Tech, North Carolina State and Oklahoma State.
"It's just a really unique opportunity to take advantage of those moments growing up," Holliday said, "having watched who we were and who we are and who we can be and drawing on the experiences of the Pete Incaviglias and Robin Venturas and on through the years and talking to our players about what those guys did and how they did it and why they did it and what this can be moving ahead."
Oklahoma State was once one of college baseball's most powerful programs, winning 17 straight Big Eight titles and appearing in the College World Series seven straight years during Holliday's childhood days.
His family moved to Stillwater when he was 10 months old, and he stayed there almost continuously until his father was fired, having been his assistant for three seasons.
"All I ever knew my whole life was Oklahoma State. I knew Stillwater and I knew the program," Holliday said. "Those players, those were my heroes. I learned to hit left-handed because Robin Ventura hit left-handed.
"I tried to imitate every single batting stance of every single player for 20 years, including when I played. We don't ever change who we are."
Holliday spread his wings after being forced to leave, and he was the recruiting coordinator for Vanderbilt when the Commodores brought in the top class in the nation last season, according to Baseball America. Holliday was also the team's hitting coach.
"He's the best of the very best," Vandy coach Tim Corbin said. "He has rare qualities, is very smart but humble and is a tremendous teacher. He is in coaching for the right reasons."
Athletic director Mike Holder echoed those sentiments.
"All he wanted was the opportunity. We didn't even talk about salary. He was just ready to sign up, no matter what it paid," said Holder, adding that terms of his contract haven't been finalized. "That's what you look for in a coach.
"He's in it for the right reasons. He's coaching for the right reasons. He's not in it for the money. He's in it for the satisfaction you get from watching young men grow and making a difference in those lives."
Both Holliday and Holder said there was no behind-the-scenes agreement that Holliday's brother, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday, would provide the type of donation needed to renovate Oklahoma State's aging stadium.
The university had originally planned to build a new stadium by 2011 with funds from Boone Pickens' $165 million donation five years earlier, but much of the money was lost when the economy soured.
Holliday said he'll always view Allie P. Reynolds Stadium as the place he stood outside to try to catch Incaviglia's home runs or that was packed for NCAA tournament games and not as an outdated ballpark.
"That ol' girl's going to look as good as she can because everyone there's going to love it and it's our home," he said. "We'll work to make our facility and our players something that we're proud of and it won't be a point that we'll sit around and talk about."